Speaking in terms of evolutionary success the brain is hardwired in its adaptations for selecting those objects that are desirable thereby promoting an organisms overall survival. Our proclivity in selecting those objects that elicit sexual excitement are known to psychologists as ‘sexual cues.‘ But what do sexual cues have to do with body size and shape? The answer seems to be connected to a genetic tendency, a throw back if you will, to our prehistoric ancestors. In terms of our evolutionary success women would select males who could run faster, work harder, and out perform other males. What this amounted to was stronger, larger, and well resourced males. Those individuals usually got selective first. This meant, those males with more of a well developed body frame, possessing strength, and resourceful knowledge (where all the good berry trees were and where safe watering holes were located) were selected before the weaker, skinnier, less resourceful ones. Males selected women for the childbearing capacity. This meant that those females who were willing and ready to perform and went into estrus frequently were more likely targets for selection. What does this amount to in terms of homo sapiens? Those women who possess “shapelier curves,” large breast, small waist, and wide hips (those body traits that morphologically occur during the onset of menstruation) are considered more sexually desirable because these attributes support a woman’s reproductive success. So why are women so obsessed with being skinny? Partly this has to do with pre-Oedipal fears and Media Psychology and its effects on targeted audiences.
Media Psychology has to do with consumerism, the targeting of certain brands to certain audiences and that brands development. It deals with marketing, advertising, and product placement, all while employing operational strategies utilizing game theory. For example, an add to a new designer perfume targeting young adult females might market the idea, “If you wear my perfume, you smell like this, look like this, and all the men will go crazy for you.” This game theory is also used in commercials and advertisements for the pharmaceutical, health & wellness related industries. So why the obsession about fat? Theories in psychology are formed from the synthesis of philosophy and physiology. Media psychology flows from the application of theories in psychology to media. Specifically included are the use of pictures, graphics, and sound in all forms to new communications technology. Media psychology is the interface between media and the human response. One generally learns psychology one theory at a time and begins to combine and apply theories based on increasing insight. Media Psychology represents the convergences of psychology applied to media, technology, communication, and is geared to eliciting a human response. It is an art and a science.
“Anorexia as an attempt by the patient to destroy her own body, which is perceived as the property of the hated and controlling mother. This relentless and sadistic attack on the patient’s body expresses pathology around separation and individuation from the mother and is a defense against a dangerous enmeshment or symbiosis with her.” This all powerful curvy and voluptuous image that has been epitomized and passed down to us through art and culture through out the ages. “Though anorectics are often characterized as “good girls,” their surface submission masks aggression toward the mother which is displaced onto their own bodies. Food symbolizes an invasion by the overly-attentive and overwhelming mother, a figure who is both hated and deeply important. As the anorectic no longer needs to eat, she no longer depends on anyone; indeed, now she controls the potential invader by inducing maternal fear and worry about her starving herself to death. In bulimic patients, the greedy incorporation of food which, in fantasy, is forcefully extracted from the mother, is experienced as poison once ingested: and then like excrement, must be expelled.” *
What happens when media advertisements influencing women to further their own defacement? Capitalism and free-market economies allow for the targeting of different groups through media manipulations. The tyranny of fashion results in the need for a woman’s excessive need to be thin fostering her continued control and manipulation of her own body further through excessive dieting and surgeries. “What begins in a defensive devaluation of women by men, which is already in place in the unconscious of six-year-old boys, is one reason that woman’s destiny seems to be her perpetual relegation to the position of the “second sex” .” * But it is not only male chauvinism that dictates this unhappy fate. Women collude, they act together with hidden knowledge especially in a harmful and malevolent ways in their own oppression. “We all, men and women, have an unconscious impulse to control and subordinate the female sex, and this is because our first object in this world is a powerful woman who can feed us or let us die. We all, men and women, have to find our own ways to subdue and contain this loved and hated figure, and boys and girls find different solutions tot his universal problem.” *
Female attacks on female body permeate modern culture. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia, cosmetic plastic surgery; breasts enlargements, breasts reduction, noses, thighs and bellies are modified to achieve some ideal of beauty. Cosmetic surgery, the expensive, painful and dangerous elective procedure in which faces, noses, breasts, thighs and bellies are sliced and modified to achieve some ideal of beauty, the medical industry has seen an increase of 457% since 1997 when the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery began collecting statistics. The society reported almost 9.5 million cosmetic procedures in 2010, and women had almost 8.6 million of those procedures, 92% of the total.
The intricate relationship between consumer and brand or service, perform an elegant dance. It is this dance that has been etched in to our modern day lifestyles and it can sometimes come at a very high price. At the high cost of women losing site of her own self-worth, her own self-identity, and her life.
* de Beauvoir, 1952.
* Lucy Holmes, 2013.